uspto_sealThe U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today unveiled a three-pronged plan to fast-track some applications, delay others and leave some on the status quo.

The hope is that a multitier approach will speed up the overall pendency, whittle the backlog of applications that now hovers near one million, and spur job growth.

USPTO Director David Kappos said the plan enables applicants to prioritize their needs and, in turn, helps the USPTO with its mounting workflow.

The plan enables “applicants to tell us what’s most important so they can go out and create jobs,” Kappos told reporters today in a conference call.

Track 1 or fast-track applicants would pay a premium fee to get their patents through the system faster – within 12 months. Kappos said this would benefit independent inventors and small businesses, who typically need patents approved faster than the nearly three years it usually now takes.

He said the USPTO would like to offer the 75 percent discount currently offered to micro-entities, but existing rules prevents the office from setting fees. He used the opportunity to note the patent reform bill still being debated in Congress, if approved, could free his hand to lower fees for small inventors.

Kappos sounded optimistic the reform bill would pass, despite years of contentious debate. He also said he doubted the office would be flooded with applicants, big and small, wanting to get in on Track 1.

“If we calibrate the fees right,” he said, “We will get an applicant demographic that will be spread out nicely across Tracks 1 2 and 3.”

Track 2 would leave application filings in the status quo.

Track 3 would put other applications on the back burner for up to 30 months before applicants can request the USPTO begin the examination process.

The USPTO is seeking public comment on the plan.

A public meeting is July 20 at 1:30 p.m. at the USPTO’s Madison building, 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, Virginia.  Those interested in attending the meeting must register by 5:00 p.m. (EDT) July 16.

Written comments must be submitted by August 20, 2010.